Does swapping business cards at a networking event, meeting, social function, etc, give people the right to add you to their database and start sending you their e-newsletter?
This was the question posted about a month ago in the eMarketing Association Network LinkedIn group. As I write this, there are 267 comments (now 273 ... 278). This is from a question proposed 30+ days ago. There are lots of opinions. It's worth joining the group just to skim through the comments.
Before I dissect the answers, I think it's time to clear up some confusion about email vs. email marketing. Sending an email is not the same as executing an email marketing campaign.
Email: My mom sent me an email last week with a link to an article. My boss sent me an email yesterday asking for a (TPS) report. My wife forwarded me an email this morning about an event this weekend.
Email Marketing: Apple sent me an email introducing the iPad. Costco sent me an email highlighting its upcoming promotions. United sent me an email reminding me of an upcoming flight.
Do you see the difference? Allow me to get a few definitions (mine) on the table:
Now back to the question above, about the etiquette of sending an e-newsletter to someone with whom you swapped business cards.
Paraphrasing, the replies have ranged from, "Of course. I expect to get an email from them," to "Providing my business card is not the same thing as opting in to receive your email newsletters or other marketing messages."
Do you see the subtle difference in the replies? I'd argue that both answers are correct. The difference here goes back to how one differentiates email from email marketing. Reread the definitions I've provided above.
An exchange of business cards grants both parties permission to contact the other based on information printed on the card. In other words, if you put your cell phone and email address on your business card, expect to hear from me via either or both of those methods. I'm telling you (giving you permission) to contact me. You. Not your company. You. Once the initial communication has occurred - say, an email in this case -- both parties agree how the relationship will continue from there. This is email.
Now, just because I've given you my business card with my email address on it and (maybe) asked you to follow up with me, I have not granted you permission to add me to any of your company's email marketing communications. Once you add me to a list and begin sending me your newsletter, product updates, specials, etc, you are practicing email marketing. You are engaging in one-to-many communication (mass email).
How does your organization manage leads from conferences? Do you:
a. Cull through all of the business cards you gather and email folks individually? (Email)
b. Transcribe the email addresses into a file and drop them into your house list? (Email Marketing)
c. Contact each new lead personally (via email) and ask them if you can add them to your email campaign list(s)? (Email à Email Marketing)
I'd recommend option c.